Listen to people who are in dire straits because of others' misguided opinions or prejudices. Read the morning paper and see another shooting or destruction of peace-loving persons property. Or sit bowing your head as the tears for what God intended for humanity has fallen apart and we can only ask, why?
My maternal grandparents were born in Italy; grandmother in Naples and grandfather in Calabria. Both came to this country, as so many immigrants from all over Europe and other foreign countries. They arrived with hope in their hearts and a desire to begin a life built on tenacity and a guarantee of freedom won through the blood of our forefathers.
During the early years of my mother’s youth, the Italian kids were picked on severely by children of other nationalities, all against the Italians. Store owners constantly had the windows broken and some destroyed, because they were different. It almost seems that history continues to repeat itself when “if we don’t like you we’ll destroy what you have; to teach you a lesson.”
Joe, one of my mother’s brothers, attended Pitt University and received a degree in education. When he applied in my hometown of Wilkinsburg to teach, he was turned down. Why? He was Catholic. Some years later, I applied for a position with the Wlikinsburg Police Force. The chief called me into his office and told me straight out; you won’t get the position for two reasons. First you’re registered as a Democrat, which you could change, but the other is you are Catholic. I will deny telling you this but I needed to aprise you of these issues.
When my parents wanted to get married at St. James, her home parish, they were refused because my mother was Italian. The pastor directed them to the Italian Church in Homewood since it was predominately Italian.
In 1949 my maternal grandfather passed away and one of my cousins was on his way from the funeral home to pick up other cousins to take them home to Moon Twp. He was a Navy veteran and was blinded in his right eye from a military accident. As he was going through an intersection a tractor-trailer was running the red light from Buddy’s right side. He nearly died from the accident but received a large settlement. As a result he gave a large amount to his father who opened a cleaning plant for clothing and was able to take the contract from another cleaning institution in Wilkinsburg for the High School band uniforms and all the curtains for the high school auditorium.
Some time later my father was in the front room of the plant with my uncle when two men in suits came in and gave my uncle “an offer he couldn’t refuse.” As a result, to ensure the offer was real, my uncle also had a tailor shop in another part of town. It was located in a newly rebuilt city block with his tailor shop, a bank, and at least 8 other stores. One night the entire block was burned to the ground.
If it were possible, we could say the fire was from some arsonist who wanted to get a high by igniting an enormous fire. But the offer my uncle couldn’t refuse was the result of what we believe was the Irish Mafia. The owners of the cleaning establishment my uncle successfully and legally took their contract were Irish and supposedly good Roman Catholic brothers who were generous to St. James with large monetary contributions. It was very difficult for them to lose a large contract to my uncle.
One may say this is just hyperbole or jealousy that can not be proven. Strange that within a short time, after the two men met my uncle, that an entire newly built city block would be burned to the ground. And of course the cleaning institution got the contract back for Wilkinsburg High School. Was this Catholic against Catholic, or Irish against Italian? You be the judge!
This expose’ is not an isolated event. It also is not a grudge to pick on any nationality. There is no doubt that many people reading this have similar stories that are personal to them or know those who have had devastating experiences. But, as I said, history continues to repeat itself.
Today’s news has not changed from yesterday or the several weeks past. None of the terrible events are random. They are a continuing result of us against them. Will the hatred that raises its ugly head in our midst continue until there is no more love for one another? Is everyone who is different our enemy? Have we forgotten that God is the Way, the Life, and the Truth? Or have we buried the name of God in place for selfishness and become the soldiers of a satanic society!
Ralph B. Hathaway, Spring 2020